NFL 2018-19 Football Predictions

Design+by+Alejandra+Gonzalez

Design by Alejandra Gonzalez

Staff

Editor’s note:The Prospector sports staff picked the division leaders for each conference AFC and NFC.

Opening weekend of the National Football League is here. Teams have the opportunity to continue building from the success of last season, while teams are in a total rebuild, while some teams are looking to get back into contention. Below are The Prospector’s sports reporters picks on which team is winning their division this upcoming season.

AFC East:

By Isaiah Ramirez

  1. Patriots
  2. Bills
  3. Dolphins
  4. Jets

For the tenth year in a row, the Patriots are the undeniable favorite to win this division. Although Tom Brady will now be forty-one years old, his playing ability will not age, just like fine wine he gets better over time as shown by last year’s league MVP distinction.  The rest of the division is up in the air considering the youth and talent in it.

Thanks to a late season win by the Cincinnati Bengals, the Bills made their first playoff appearance in over fifteen years. Aside from that help, their defense was a really strong factor in their 9-7 campaign.

Ryan Tannehill is coming off an ACL injury from last season so his performance this season will definitely be up in the air, while New York drafted arguably the best quarterback in the draft with Sam Donald. But without any solid targets to surround Darnold and a struggling defense New York won’t be a contender for years to come.

AFC North:

  1. Steelers
  2. Ravens
  3. Browns
  4. Bengals

The Pittsburgh Steelers have the best offense in the NFL hands down with once in a generation talents, such as Antonio Bell and Le’veon Bell and a young upstart Juju Smith Schuster. Both Brown and Bell were named in the top five of the top 100 players in the NFL as voted by the players. The question that looms large for the Steel Curtain is how long does Bell hold out of his contract till he gets a new deal.

A lot of hype in Baltimore surrounding first round draft pick and heisman winner Lamar Jackson with his stellar preseason performances especially running the ball, which we all know isn’t in Joe Flacco’s forte. With a returning tough defense and if the offense can be steady and produce consistent solid play don’t be surprised if this Ravens team makes a AFC championship game appearance.

Finally, the Browns will win a game and after going 0-16 last season and a compiled record of 1-31 over the last two seasons. Baker Mayfield should be the starter by Week 3 maybe even 4 and with a wide receiver like Jarvis Landry and the returning Josh Gordon Cleveland is going to surprise a lot of fans this season.

The Bengals don’t have any bright spots on their team besides maybe Andy Dalton who had a mediocre season in 2016 and a defense that struggled against the run last season allowing 127.9 yards a game last season (third worst in the league).

AFC South:

  1. Jaguars
  2. Texans
  3. Colts
  4. Titans

Jacksonville was so close to making their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history last season after a 20-24 lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship game. The Jaguars defense allowed only 286 total yards of offense last season, which was the second best in the NFL. With star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Calais Campbell at the helm, along with skillful quarterback Blake Bortles, Jacksonville is poised to make another run at the AFC Championship game.

If Deshaun Watson had not had that unfortunate season ending injury the Texans would’ve been the number two seed coming out of the AFC. Watson was having an MVP-like season and the team was clicking on all cylinders. Look for Houston to make a deep playoff run this season behind three-time NFL defensive player of the year J.J. Watt and behind the play of stellar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Both the Colts and Titans have playoff-experienced quarterbacks in Andrew Luck and Marcus Mariota but Mariota was very inconsistent last season and that will carry over in 2018. The Colts are still in the early rebuilding stages so both teams will not see any playoff glory this season.

AFC West:

  1. Chargers
  2. Raiders
  3. Broncos
  4. Chiefs

This Division is stacked with talent and most of it is found in Los Angeles where Melvin Gordon is going to have a breakout season and crack into the conversation and rush for well over 1,500 yards in 2018. Quarterback Philip Rivers has some nice options surrounding him in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Look for the Chargers to win their first division title since 2009.

The Raiders have a Super Bowl winning coach with the ability to change the dynamic of a team right away in Jon Gruden and with Derek Carr, who was having a MVP like season two years ago this Raiders team will be a force to be reckoned with. Last season Oakland was in the middle-of-the-pack in both offense and defensive rankings.Offense should be good but with the questionable decision of Gruden to trade defensive player of the year Khalil  Mack to Chicago.

Denver is coming off a 4-12 season but have a lot of positive momentum coming into this season in the signing of quarterback Case Keenum who led the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game last season and the defense of the Broncos. First year defensive coordinator Joe Woods coached this Denver defense to have the third-best in the league.

In Kansas City, a quarterback will have to prove he is worthy of the number one spot on the depth chart in Patrick Mahomes, as he takes over an impressive offense that was top five in the league in total yards last year. Mahomes has some nice weapons in Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins but I just don’t see Kareem Hunt dominating the way he did last season, thus hurting the rest of the offense.

NFC East:

By Eddie Velasquez

  1. Eagles
  2. Giants
  3. Cowboys
  4. Redskins

Perhaps one of the hardest divisions to predict, the NFC East may be a repeat of the 2017 season.

While the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks seem to be struggling mightily during the preseason, we all know what happened the last time we counted out Head Coach Doug Pederson’s squad. I am counting on healthy versions of Carson Wentz and Jay Ajayi to lead Philly to back-to-back divisional titles.

On defense, simply put an excellent defensive line rotation that did not lose any significant pieces, a young and scrappy secondary that is getting a surefire starter at nickel corner in Sydney Jones. Jones is getting rave reviews in camp and was touted by many draft gurus as a first round corner coming out of the University of Washington last year.   

The Giants are a shaky proposition, as they have an uber talented offensive nucleus on offense (sans Eli Manning). However, the two-time Super Bowl MVP only has to be serviceable to take this offense to the next level. The inclusion of playmaker Saquon Barkley at running back should alleviate one of Big Blue’s biggest sore spots since Tiki Barber. It will also bring aid to a slightly above average defense stay off the field with long offensive drives, something that has helped their division rivals with less talented rosters win games.

The Dallas Cowboys are the biggest question mark here. According to CBS Sports they are right in the middle of the pack in terms of strength-of-schedule, a metric used to calculate the difficulty of a team’s schedule. However, injuries to the offensive line, the indefinite absence of their all-pro center and a receiving corps bereft of talent could keep this team grounded for yet another season. If they get all-pro left tackle Tyron Smith and all-pro right guard Zack Martin back in the lineup to start the season, I can see a scenario where the Boys ride running back Ezekiel Elliot into a second-place finish.

 NFC South:

  1. Falcons
  2. Saints
  3. Panthers
  4. Buccaneers

The logic behind this order is simple; there is no way the New Orleans Saints can repeat what they did on offense last season. While they have an even better collection of offensive talent this year, I expect defenses to adjust to their smashing running game and dare an aging quarterback in Drew Brees to beat them through the air.

On the other hand, the Atlanta Falcons are on the rise. First round wide receiver Calvin Ridley looks like the real deal in Hotlanta, and will complement arguably the best receiver in football in Julio Jones. The running game also looks as good as it ever has, and if quarterback Matt Ryan’s track as a player is any indication, his second year under offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian should be an MVP-caliber one.

The defense might just be the sneaky star of Head Coach Dan Quinn’s team. With playmakers on every level of the defense– Grady Jarrett and Vic Beasley in the trenches, Deion Jones at linebacker and Keanu Neal in the secondary–the Falcons are poised to have a top 5 unit in the NFC this year.

While I think both the Saints and the Falcons will make the playoffs, the real sleeper here are the Carolina Panthers. The inclusion of rookie wideout D.J. Moore into quarterback Cam Newton’s arsenal might take them over the hump in the race for a wildcard playoff spot. Newton is a streaky enough passer to get hot in the right stretches of the season and make the best of his offensive weapons.

NFC West:

By Daniel Mendez

  1. Rams
  2. 49ers
  3. Seahawks
  4. Cardinals

The Los Angeles Rams this offseason made headway this offseason. Many NFL insiders are calling them a super team. They added two shut down corners in Pro Bowlers Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. They added insurance to an already impressive defensive line by adding free agent Ndamukong Suh. Finally re-signed one of the best defensive line players Aaron Donald to a  multi-year extension. After a quick Wild Card exit against the Falcons, not only did they upgrade the defense but they made upgrades to the offense, by trading for former New England Patriot Brandin Cooks. Second-year head coach Sean Mcvay will look to improve after his impressive first year behind the sidelines with quarterback Jared Goff and Pro Bowl running back Todd Gurley.

After San Francisco made the mid-season trade for a franchise quarterback with Jimmy Garoppolo, the Niners didn’t lose a game. They will continue to build on that success this season, which is why they finish second in the division. Seattle is no longer the Legion of Boom. Cornerback Richard Sherman is now a Niner and safety Earl Thomas wants a new deal or change of scenery. The Cardinals will be in rebuild mode, after signing free agent quarterback Sam Bradford this off-season. Bradford has had his share of ACL injuries that has plagued him since his last year at Oklahoma. Arizona drafted UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen in last year’s draft. It will only be a matter of time for the Cardinals to start evaluating if Rosen is indeed their quarterback of the future.

 NFC North:

  1. Vikings
  2. Packers
  3. Bears
  4. Lions

This division features two quarterback who this offseason and preseason secured the bag. When Minnesota signed free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins this off-season to a three-year, $84 million guaranteed deal. Cousins contract became the model deal for what would become Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers record breaking four-year $134 million contract extension.

What gives the Vikings a slight edge in the division is the weapons they have for Cousins. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and tight end Kyle Rudolph had breakout years with Case Keenum under center, imagine the possibilities with Cousins who will look to prove why he was worth all that money.

Another edge that must be considered is the Vikings have the best defense.

Green Bay finally released wide receiver Jordy Nelson, yet Rodgers still has weapons, as the Pack signed free agent tight end Jimmy Graham. They also have two respectable receivers in Davante Adams and Randall Cobb. Both have proved to be valuable weapons for the best quarterback in the league.

If Green Bay can utilize the mixture of run and pass and not rely so heavy on Rodgers’ arm, the Packers should see itself in the wild card position.

The final two teams in the division, the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears, are in rebuild mode. Detroit will have first year head coach Matt Patricia, formerly New England Patriots defensive coordinator, grace the sidelines as he looks to get the Lions into playoff contention.

Last year Detroit was 9-7 they failed to secure a Wild Card spot as they lost their last four games.

Meanwhile Chicago has made all the right moves to not be taken lightly. The Bears added weapons for second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky when they signed former Jaguars wide receiver Allen Robinson, and signed former Eagles tight end Trey Burton. Adding skill position players to a team that was in dire need besides having skilled running back Jordan Howard. The Bears recently made headlines across the NFL this past Saturday morning, when they traded for former Raiders defensive stud, Khalil Mack. Shortly after Chicago made the reigning defensive player of the year the highest paid defensive player in the NFL with a six-year $141 million extension. Mack not only pressures Chicago to win more games this upcoming season but it also gives the Bears a star that they can build around on the defensive side.